Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eden before the Fall?

The only thing I really liked about James Cameron's Titanic was the special effects — the recreation of the ship itself and then the encounter with an iceberg and its consequences. I had read A Night to Remember long before and the romantic fantasy Cameron created simply wasn't as good as the real story. I haven't been tempted to seek out the film again. Cameron's most recent film, Avatar, doesn't recreate an historical event but otherwise I gather that it has similar virtues and defects — even more vastly spectacular special effects but a very thin, utterly predictable plot. I may see it someday — I like well-done special effects and it apparently provides a well-imagined alternative world. The film has certainly had a powerful effect on many of its viewers.
James Cameron's completely immersive spectacle "Avatar" may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.

On the fan forum site "Avatar Forums," a topic thread entitled "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible," has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope. ....

A post by a user called Elequin expresses an almost obsessive relationship with the film.

"That's all I have been doing as of late, searching the Internet for more info about 'Avatar.' I guess that helps. It's so hard I can't force myself to think that it's just a movie, and to get over it, that living like the Na'vi will never happen. I think I need a rebound movie," Elequin posted.

A user named Mike wrote on the fan Web site "Naviblue" that he contemplated suicide after seeing the movie.

"Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na'vi made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it," Mike posted. "I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in 'Avatar.' "

Other fans have expressed feelings of disgust with the human race and disengagement with reality. ....

Ivar Hill posts to the "Avatar" forum page under the name Eltu. He wrote about his post-"Avatar" depression after he first saw the film earlier this month.

"When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning," Hill wrote on the forum. "It just seems so ... meaningless. I still don't really see any reason to keep ... doing things at all. I live in a dying world." ....
I remember, soon after reading The Lord of the Rings the first or second time, wishing that I could dream being there, but that fantasy land was much more moored to this earth and no reader could imagine it a perfect, harmonious place.

Matthew J. Milliner, writing at Public Discourse, thinks the film has this kind of appeal because it represents an unfallen world:
.... The blue people do it better. Harmony with nature, respect for food sources, sensitivity to the earth, liturgical vitality, rites of passage, lifelong marriage commitments, horse whispering—all the key ingredients to a harmonious agrarian society. How could one not be attracted to the ideals so beautifully presented in this film? The problem is, Avatar is not describing how the world might be if Wendell Berry were president; it’s describing a world without a Fall.

It is odd that amidst the innumerable citations the reviewers have noticed in the unoriginal script of Avatar, there has been (to my knowledge) no mention of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, which ushered the Christian imagination into space long before the emergence of Star Wars or Star Trek. Lewis paints a picture of space—better termed the heavens—as an “empyrean ocean of radiance.” A dazzling variety of planets singing to their Creator, one of which—our own—is tempted by “The Bent One,” in turn losing this music to become “The Silent Planet.” When visitors from our Silent Planet visit planets that have not experienced a similar rebellion, the scenario is very much like the earthlings visiting Pandora in Avatar. Fallen humans, in comparison to the inhabitants of Lewis’ distant, unfallen planets, are inevitably corrupted. ....

...[O]ne of the lessons of Lewis’ Space Trilogy is that the pleasures of unfallen worlds are impossible for a fallen race (humans) to handle. Seen not only through 3-D glasses, but through the lens of Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Avatar emerges not as a defense of Pantheism, an anti-American screed or as a vision of ideals realizable on this planet: Instead, it’s a depiction of Eden.
Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues - CNN.com, Avatar and its Conservative Critics « Public Discourse